By Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Martin Amos stood with his crosier in front of red velvet drapes covering the Holy Doors at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. I wondered what was going through his mind as he waited in the vestibule that soggy morning on Dec. 13. Bishops worldwide, like him, would be standing before their mother church’s Holy Doors, poised to enter the threshold of a Year of Mercy in a ceremony dating back to the 15th century. Then Molly O’Meara Schnell and Deacon Dan Huber parted the drapes for Bishop Amos and he pushed open the Holy Doors proclaiming: “This is the Lord’s gate. Let us enter through it and gain mercy and forgiveness.” At that point, the Holy Doors became the “Doors of Mercy.”
Actually, there are nine Doors of Mercy throughout the Davenport Diocese. Walking through any of them, along with participating in prayer and the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, provide special graces this holy year.
Later, I asked Bishop Amos what he had been thinking as he pushed open the Holy Doors at the cathedral. He described the experience as awesome. In his mind he saw an image of Pope Francis opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, an image captured by the media on Dec. 8.
Recording the Davenport ceremony on my smartphone, I didn’t initially think about what it meant for me to cross the threshold of the Doors of Mercy. That would come later. While the Mass echoed the Holy Father’s message of mercy — from the readings to the homily to the Eucharist — I was preoccupied.
In his homily, Bishop Amos reflected in part on St. Paul’s message to the Romans: “It is precisely in this that God proves his love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Our first task in this Year of Mercy, the bishop observed, is to reflect and meditate on God’s merciful love. The second task: to experience that merciful love through the sacrament of reconciliation.
I was definitely in need of reconciliation! After an interaction the previous week, in which I did not treat someone the way I want to be treated, I was anxious to reconcile with God and neighbor. My husband Steve, who accompanied me at the Opening the Doors of Mercy Liturgy, agreed to drive back to the cathedral for the Davenport Deanery’s Reconciliation Liturgy.
A sense of peace enveloped me during the service. It began with the Gathering Hymn “Loving and Forgiving,” a tender song that speaks to my heart. Bishop Amos prayed during the greeting that we would be renewed by the life-giving mercy of God. “Let us pray for true conversion of heart that we may rise with Jesus to fullness of life.”
In his homily, the bishop spoke about the meaning of reconciliation. The emphasis is not on our sins and our work, but rather on God and God’s mercy. We reconcile our relationship with God and God with us; we reconcile our relationship with one another and with all of creation. Twenty-two priests were ready and waiting to bestow the sacrament of reconciliation. With absolution, and completion of penance, I felt the lifting of a burden from my being. I had crossed the threshold of the Doors of Mercy.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 563-888-4246.)